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It is one of the more frustrating paradoxes of human existence - and perhaps even contrary to the theory of evolution - that the better one is at some given task or other, so generally the more difficult it then becomes to make further substantive improvements to one's performance. The first four-minute mile, for instance, was run by Roger Bannister in Oxford way back in 1954, and that figure has, not surprisingly, been under constant attack from other athletes around the world ever since. But the current record of a little over three minutes and 43 seconds is now highly unlikely ever to be reduced by more than a few hundredths of a second at a time - certainly not within the next 50 years or so, anyway.
The problem is much the same for the makers of what might be termed planes, trains and automobiles - with the added complication that any major improvements in specification, and thus all-important performance, generally end up costing a disproportionately huge amount of money; in this case it's the law of diminishing returns. Thanks to the recent much-publicised opening of the high-speed rail link from the refurbished St Pancras station to the Channel Tunnel, for example, you can now travel between London and Paris in a little over two and a quarter hours without the hassle of setting foot in an airport. But is the 20-minute time saving over the old line through Kent really worth the billions of pounds the new one is estimated to have cost us? One suspects not. Then again, if you're reading this in the departure lounge at either Heathrow or Gatwick airport, maybe it is...
As with trains, so with sports cars. Porsche's latest 997-model GT3 RS, for instance, is a truly awesome, breathtaking achievement - 415bhp, 0-62mph in just 4.2 seconds, a maximum speed of 192mph and, in the hands of an expert, levels of grip, roadholding and braking (and thus lap times) that seem not just to defy the laws of physics, but actually to rewrite them.
Dull it most definitely is not. But just ask yourself this question. How much better is that new GT3 RS than the regular 997 GT3? (And do bear in mind that while the former costs from £94,280, the latter starts at a comparatively cheap £79,540.) Then again, how much better (in technical terms, at least) is either of those models than the original, first-generation 996 GT3? And rather more to the point as far as we're concerned here, how much better than a 993-model Carrera RS? Even with a mere 300bhp this now increasingly desirable (and thus steadily appreciating) modern classic offers 0-62mph in five seconds, a top speed of 172mph, and genuinely race-bred handling. And all - at the moment, anyway - for quite possibly less than £45,000-£50,000. Tempting, isn't it?
Here, though, we immediately run into yet another intriguing paradox. Which, put simply, is that if you're in the market for a 1990s' 911 RS, then the 993 model was - and remains - a huge leap forward from the 964 version. Don't get us wrong. The 964 RS is a superb car, well worth owning.
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